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Air Pollution is a Trade Union issue and a workplace issue but are we doing enough?

June 10, 2019 12:00 AM
By Kevin Daws
Originally published by Green Liberal Democrats

Earlier this year through Green Liberal Democrats e-news we made you aware of the upcoming launch of TUCAN - the Trade Union Clean Air Network. The launch took place in February and was supported by 13 trade unions representing the bulk of TUC membership who have signed up to the Trade Union Clean Air Network (TUCAN) This charter provides a framework for unions to campaign for the health and environmental concerns of workers.

The Charter calls on the Government to:

  1. Introduce a New Clean Air Act that enshrines the right to breathe clean air. TUCAN supporter logos (Greener Jobs Alliance)
  2. Update Health and Safety Law
  3. Ensure effective enforcement
  4. Involve the workforce
  5. Protect
  6. Rapidly expand clean and inexpensive public transport systems alongside investment in active transport to increase levels of cycling and walking

The above is just the key points of the Charter but the full text can be obtained by following this link

http://www.greenerjobsalliance.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/GJA-TU-Clean-Air-CharterEMAIL.pdf

The Time to Breathe Campaign was subsequently launched by the British Safety Council in March of this year and whilst this campaign focuses on Air Pollution it is specifically targeting outdoor workers. The British Safety Council launched Time to Breathe, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of the risks to outdoor workers from air pollution. Outdoor workers can do a variety of jobs (newspaper sellers, lollipop people, road works, couriers etc), many of them on or near busy roads. Evidence shows that long-term exposure to pollutants can damage people's health. Further information can be followed by following this link: https://www.britsafe.org/campaigns-policy/time-to-breathe-air-pollution-campaign/

Clean Air for workers (British Safety Council)

There is a clear overlap between these two campaigns and we have to hope that the British Safety Council and all the unions supporting TUCAN can work together and as a minimum they could both agree that

  • There should be a New Clean Air Act that enshrines the right to breathe clean air
  • Health and Safety Law should be updated including the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations and related guidance should be amended to reflect new research on indoor and outdoor air pollution.
  • Air pollution is recognised as an occupational health issue.
  • Everyone needs to reduce their pollution footprint by using clean energy, cycling and walking more
  • The Government should start collecting data on how many outdoor workers there are and where they work so this vulnerable group can be better protected.

There is no reason why the Green Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrats cannot support both campaigns and I believe that we should contact the party's Employment spokesperson, Christine Jardine MP and the party's Environment and Climate Change spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse MP to ask them and the Parliamentary party to support both the TUCAN Clean Air Charter and the British Safety Councils Time to Breathe Campaign.

To date the party have called for action on air pollution from vehicles but they have not addressed the wider air pollution issues including the impact on workers. The Party passed a motion at the 2019 Spring Conference in York entitled 'Cleaning Up the Air We Breathe How to Tackle Road Pollution' and more recently Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Environment and Climate Change, tabled legislation to tackle air pollution crisis and the Bill she introduced is called The Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill which proposes giving local authorities increased powers to issue fines to drivers of idling vehicles.

FREE Online Training

If you would like to learn more about Air Pollution then you could enrol for the FREE Greener Jobs Alliance online course Air Pollution - a Public Health Emergency by following this link http://www.greenerjobsalliance.co.uk/courses/air-pollution-a-public-health-emergency/ which consists of 3 modules: Module 1 - The Causes and Health Impacts of Air Pollution; Module 2 - The Law and Government Policy; Module 3 - Trade Union Responses and Campaigns

Conclusion

My conclusion is that whilst the party has spoken out and taken action on Road traffic Pollution it needs to do more on the wider issues of Air Pollution through both a New Clean Air Act and recognising Air Pollution as an occupational health issue.

References

Trade Union Clean Air Charter http://www.greenerjobsalliance.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/GJA-TU-Clean-Air-CharterEMAIL.pdf

Time to Breathe Campaign https://www.britsafe.org/campaigns-policy/time-to-breathe-air-pollution-campaign/

Pollution map reveals unsafe air quality at almost 2,000 UK sites article in The Guardian on 27th February 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/27/pollution-map-reveals-unsafe-air-quality-at-almost-2000-uk-sites

A good source of information and the latest news on Air Quality and Air Pollution is Air Quality News - follow this link to their website and whilst you are there sign up for their e-newsletter https://airqualitynews.com/

Lib Dems table bill to tackle idling vehicles - an article in Air Quality News on 5th June 2019 https://airqualitynews.com/2019/06/05/lib-dems-table-bill-to-increase-powers-to-tackle-idling-vehicles/ You can also visit the Green Liberal Democrats website https://greenlibdems.org.uk/en/article/2019/1310630/lib-dems-table-legislation-to-tackle-air-pollution-crisis